President Joe Biden pardoned potentially thousands of individuals federally convicted of possession of marijuana. presidential action posted on the White House web page Thursday afternoon, October 6, noted that Biden grants “a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to (1) all current United States and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”
He said in a statement that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” The president continued:
“There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result … My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”
Two further developments ensued. First, Biden has called on governors across the country to enact similar pardons for those convicted of marijuana offenses. He also asked the secretary of Health and Human Services and the US attorney general to launch a review into how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
The president made it clear that this action was intended to deal with racial disparity, saying, “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
A senior administration official speaking to NBC News noted that “there are currently no individuals in federal prison solely for simple possession of marijuana and most marijuana possession convictions occur at the state level.”
Such pardons as may be issued will not apply to individuals who “were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense.”